Decisions, decisions: Emily chooses a career, finally!

by Annelise Ball

There are so many stories to tell about careers.  Everyone has their own story; good, bad or ugly.  There is so learn to learn from each other, especially the mistakes we’ve made and the things we’ve learnt the hard way.  So, today I’m going to tell Emily’s story.  I think it’s a great story that illustrates the power of following your heart.  It will always lead you in the right direction.

Emily is 27 years old and lives in Melbourne.  In Year 12, her favourite subject was psychology.  She loved it.  Her one and only university course preference was an undergraduate psychology degree.  She got a good score and was accepted into the course during first-round offers. After one semester however, things started to unravel.

‘I hated it’ Emily recalls. ‘ It was really different to year 12 psychology and I found it incredibly boring.  It was all about statistics and research, nothing like the things I’d found so interesting in my Year 12 course, like understanding human behaviour and cognitive development.’

After one semester, she dropped out. A course in Beauty Therapy seemed like the way to go.   She loved it.

‘I loved the course, I loved earning money and I loved the friends I made.  I even planned to start my own business eventually’.  Emily began to focus on skincare.  She especially enjoyed helping people treat problems that were affecting their self-esteem, such as chronic acne. In her spare time though, Emily maintained her interest in psychology.  She read books and stayed in touch with developments in the field.

Yet after a few years, Emily began to feel bored.  ‘I felt like I wasn’t being challenged enough.  I also hated that people looked down on me because I was doing relatively unskilled service work.’

Emily decided to go back to university.  She broadened her options and applied for a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in Nutrition & Dietetics and Psychology.  Psychology was still just an interest, and Emily was yet to seriously considered it as a career.  However, she enjoyed the course content and earned several High Distinctions.   Nutrition and Dietetics was definitely not her strength and her marks were much lower in those subjects.

Emily finished the course mid-year and had six months up her sleeve.  London called.  She developed a new game plan.  She would apply for Psychology Honours in the new year.  It was common knowledge that only a few dozen were accepted out of hundreds of applicants.  If she got in, she’d come home.  If she didn’t, she’d stay in London.

A few months later, Emily discovered she’d been one of the lucky few accepted into Honours.   She still wasn’t convinced.  She went online, rejected the offer and got on with her life in London.

A month or two later, Emily’s mum got a phone call from the university.  They hadn’t heard from Emily.  Her online rejection hadn’t been received.   Her mum contacted her in London and asked for direction.  ‘Reject it’ said Emily.

However, that same week, everything changed.  She lost her job in messy and unpleasant circumstances.  Both her flat mates decided to move out.  A good friend got engaged.

‘I felt like I was starting to miss out on things.’ Emily reflects.  ‘I was practically homeless and going from job to job. I realised it was time to make a decision about my life.  I had to give psychology a go’.

Emily’s mum called the university to tell them she was ready to accept the Honours position.  ‘Lucky’ they said. ‘We were going to offer it to someone else today’.

Emily packed up her life in London and headed home.  Three weeks later, she started the course.

‘I loved it!’ she said.  ‘I got really good marks and made some very close friends. I knew I was going in the right direction’.  Emily enjoyed it so much she applied for the Doctorate course a year later.  She got in –  one out of a handful of successful applicants.

‘I knew the skills I learned in beauty therapy had a LOT to do with my success in being accepted in the doctorate course’.  Emily said.  ‘It was so important’. Most people wouldn’t make the connection between beauty therapy and psychology.  But for Emily, it was obvious.

‘Beauty therapy gave me six years of experience working directly with people.  I’d learned about client care, building rapport, maintaining a client-base, establishing trust and learning about good interpersonal and customer service skills.  These are core skills needed by a professional psychologist.  I had years of experience in caring for people in a personal setting, helping them improve and overcome problems that were affecting their self-esteem and confidence.  Those skills were completely relevant and transferrable to psychology.’

Emily has a year to go in her doctorate course.  Her advice to others?

‘You have to work hard, but it it’s the right thing for you, it’ll happen.  It might be stressful, but if it’s meant to be, it’ll come to you easily.